CHAMPAIGN — If you're interested in hearing from the candidates running for school board, you're in luck.
Champaign's PTA Council is hosting tonight a candidate forum featuring those running for school board in April.
It's scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Mellon Administrative Center, 703 S. New St., C.
Seven candidates are running for five school board seats.
Five people — Laurie Bonnett, Chuck Jackson, Scott MacAdam, Lynn Stuckey and John Williams III — are running for three available four-year school board terms.
Incumbents Stig Lanesskog and Ileana Saveley are running for two available two-year school board terms.
The election is April 9.
The forum will allow each candidate to make an opening statement, answer questions about how they'll work for children and list their objectives for the school district.
They'll also answer questions from the audience, said PTA Council President Anna Simon, and give a closing statement, as well.
The candidates' answers will be timed, and Brian Minsker, East Central Region director for the Illinois PTA, will moderate.
Simon said the forum gives the community the opportunity to learn more about the candidates and their views on issues that concern the school district. The council has hosted forums for candidates since at least 1993. It has also worked with the League of Women Voters to put on past forums.
Simon said the forum supports the PTA's goal of bringing home and school closer, and to give students advantages in their "physical, mental, social and spiritual education."
"This forum gives community members the opportunity to develop the united efforts needed to secure these advantages for our children," she said. "Our district has many large decisions to make in the upcoming years including the building of new schools and changes to school curriculum. The forum opens the floor to learn the candidates' views on these and other items."
Minsker, who will moderate the forum and is a past Champaign PTA Council president, said he thinks the forum is "particularly important because the role of the school board is vital to the health of the community"
"For the (University of Illinois) to recruit top-ranked faculty, for the community to bring new businesses to town, and for existing businesses to expand, we have to have effective, modern schools," he said. "And the school board is the body that plots that course and steers the ship, which is why school board elections are important."
Illinois school districts are also facing "tremendous challenges," he said. Some of these challenges are state funding cuts and late payments, the possibility of taking on pension costs, the need to modernize schools after years of deferred maintenance, increasing student populations and taking on new state learning standards and even issues like school security and bullying.
For those who can't attend the forum, a taped version will play on Champaign Government Television several times throughout March.
To see the station's schedule, please visit http://cgtvcablecast.ci.champaign.il.us/Cablecast/Public/Schedule.aspx